Budget Deficit Sparks Talk Of IMPD, MCSO Merger Dissolution

City Leaders Question Public Safety Merger Efficiency

Growing concerns about the size of the city’s public safety budget deficit has generated talk about dissolving the merger between the Indianapolis Metro Police Department and the Marion County Sheriff’s Office.

City-County Councilor Jack Sandlin said he has considered introducing a proposal to disengage the merger between the two law enforcement agencies.

“That's more to stimulate people into thinking about what we're doing and where we're headed,” Sandlin said.

Five years after the merger between the two departments, critics have questioned if the consolidation cut either costs or crime, RTV6's Jack Rinehart reported.

"Years ago, before we merged, officials of the cities we visited said if you're trying to sell this to people on the fact that you're going to save money, you're not telling the truth," Sandlin said.

Both IMPD and MCSO face a combined budget deficit of $30 million, and officials have warned that the budget shortfalls could lead to layoffs, cuts in services and the closure of some neighborhood roll call sites.

Sheriff John Layton said the idea of a merger in 2012 isn't any more popular than it was five years ago.

"I don't think it's a big secret that there's not any police officers in Marion County that ever believed in the merger," Layton said. “The idea of undoing the merger should not be off the table. We're in a crisis now. The clock is ticking and we have to make some changes. If the (dissolution) is one of them, then the City-County Council and the people of Marion County will make that decision, not me. I will uphold the law with whatever the City-County Council decides."

Mayor Greg Ballard’s office said the merger was a good idea but didn’t go far enough.

“Given the budget challenges we face, the mayor thinks we need to create a closer relationship with the sheriff,” said mayoral spokesman Marc Lotter. “We need to look for more efficiency to find savings and not take these two agencies farther apart.”

The merger was pushed forward five years ago on the premise that it would save money, but that same argument might now be used to take the merger apart.

"I think that everything has to be on the table," Sandlin said. “I think the merger is something we have to look at."

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